TSN.ca's MMA staff takes a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.
1) Are you a fan of Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen coaching TUF and fighting in April?
John Pollock, Host TSN 1050 - The MMA Report: Yes I am and for a number of reasons. The first of which is that Jones cannot fight until the end of April, so it's not as if we are seeing Jones sidelined simply to accommodate the TUF schedule.
The fact is the franchise is on life support right now and needs a shot in the arm in the worst possible way and this is their answer. Is Chael Sonnen the most “deserving?” It depends what your definition of that word is. The UFC is much more “business” than it is “sport” and their bottom line heavily relies on pay-per-view revenue, television contracts and the creation of stars, which are not the three principal functions of mainstream sports leagues (ie: NFL, MLB, NHL etc). This is a business fight much like Ken Shamrock coaching opposite Tito Ortiz in 2006 was a business move that drew ratings and drew a monstrous 775,000 buys for UFC 61 (which people also said was a fight “no one wanted to see” in 2006).
I feel that most MMA “purists” (and I'm not a big fan of that word) understand why this fight is happening, they just disagree with the principal nature of business reasons coming ahead of athletic merit and you're fine to judge on that criteria. But this is what the UFC is – it's a business and outside of Anderson Silva agreeing to fight Jones, this is the best business fight for Jon Jones and the best option for the UFC.
James Lynch, TSN.ca: Like Pollock, I'm all in favor of the UFC's decision to pit Sonnen coaching opposite Jones for the next season of TUF. The show needs the ratings and Sonnen is the mouthpiece king of the sport, I get that. However, the danger of giving Sonnen this fight is now the UFC is opening a Pandora's box of saying they can match-up anyone together in a title fight regardless of their record. I understand the idea here is to make the most money possible, but the compromise is your harming the purity of the sport.
To make matters worse it's not like the light heavyweight division is isn't short on contenders. Dan Henderson was guaranteed a title shot before he was hurt and fighters like Shogun Rua and Lyoto Machida deserve a second chance at the champ. Yes, Jones is out until April, but then why not make this a non-title bout to silence the critics? I think the Sonnen match-up sets a bad precedence for the entire sport. Pundits will point out both Frankie Edgar (against Jose Aldo) and Dan Henderson (against Anderson Silva) earned title shots after coming off losses, however both were coming off close decisions, not a second round stoppage loss like Sonnen. I'm a Chael Sonnen fan and I think the buildup will be very entertaining, however I imagine the fight will play out as very one sided.
2) Would you like to see the super fight between Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, if St-Pierre defeats Carlos Condit?
Pollock: It seems that over the past few months MMA fans have gotten so spoiled with the best fights on the table that the idea of Silva fighting Georges St-Pierre just isn't “good enough” and would prefer Silva fighting Jon Jones. Now that Jones is booked through April, it appears that if GSP gets through Carlos Condit (hardly a given) than this is the fight to make.
I certainly question the ability of Silva to get down to 170-pounds at his current age, but prefer a welterweight fight rather than St-Pierre moving up in weight for a catchweight bout. We saw when he fought Jake Shields and went in heavier than usual that some of his speed was lost even prior to the eye poke. St-Pierre is a welterweight fighter and ideas of him moving up to middleweight seem daunting at this stage of his career.
To those that say they don't want to see this fight – I feel there should be an agreement that if you say that publicly than you're pay-per-view provider or local bar has the legal obligation to refuse service for you the night of the fight. The fact is when/if that fight happens it will be gigantic whether they fight at 170, 177, 185 or 300-pounds.
Lynch: I'm a huge St-Pierre fan, I've met him in person, seen him fight live and haven't missed any of his bouts since UFC 58. I'm more than happy if a local bar turns me away from viewing this fight because it would be painful to watch. I don't see any way that GSP defeats Silva in any weight class because the size and reach of The Spider is just too much for the French Canadian. St-Pierre has had the luxury of being a bigger welterweight who is able to bully his opponents with his size and wrestling, much like in the second B.J Penn and Matt Serra bouts. With Silva, he wouldn't have the same fortune and there isn't a fighter in the welterweight class who hits as accurately or has the devastating knockout power as Silva.
Jones versus Silva is a much more competitive super fight, and at 37 I think the Brazilian knows he'd lose that fight, which is why he immediately rejected that idea. There are still many intriguing match-ups for the Canadian including the winner of Kampmann/Hendricks, Penn (if he somehow gets past Rory MacDonald) and also lets not forget about Nick Diaz. People are complaining that Silva doesn't have anyone to fight, and someone like Chris Weidman isn't a big enough name. Well how about Dan Henderson or Rashad Evans cut down to middleweight and fight the champion? Those would be exciting fights.
3) Are you watching the current season of TUF?
Pollock: I am watching the current season, which makes me a high percentage of the audience that is tuning in this season.
I don't think any viewers are kidding themselves that the series is as influential or star driven as seasons past but I haven't had too many complaints about the actual season.
You have a number of interesting personalities, a number of fighters you can see making the transition to the UFC (Mike Ricci, Bristol Marunde) and by having the show in the can it has enhanced the storylines and characters rather than editing the show week to week and not knowing what stories you are going to be telling throughout the season.
The season lacks the sizzle we had in years past with coaches such as Josh Koscheck, Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans, but I cannot say I'm bored with the show nor do I feel an obligation to watch the show every week because it's not “must see” and that is why the numbers are not there because it's not essential viewing.
Lynch: Well that makes two of us Pollock, I am tuning into this season however on my own time (thank you PVR). The Friday night time-slot is horrible because I'm either out on the town with my friends or I'm watching Bellator live online (which compared to TUF is a better product).
But I'll be honest, this season has been pretty good so far, I like the talent they have assembled including some Canadian content in Mike Ricci and Michael Hill. I think if their goal is more viewership, bring in fighters with some familiarity, if you're a hardcore fan like myself grabbing prospects from other organizations is a good start.
This season for example I recognized Sam Alvey who fought in Bellator, not a widely popular fighter but at the very least I had some interest because I already saw him fight. Like Pollock mentioned, storylines and characters drive the show, and I think its much easier to grab guys who have already had some TV time (either from Bellator, Strikeforce, One FC, etc.) than force stoylines by adding alcohol in the house and seeing what happens (like they did with Junie Browning on TUF 8). I wouldn't be opposed to having something similar to Season 4 – The Comeback, only perhaps instead of earning a title shot, the winner perhaps earned a co-main event on a future UFC event.